Joseph Reed

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by tonyt, Dec 16, 2006.

  1. tonyt

    tonyt New Member

    Does anyone know of a biography of Joseph Reed . He seems to be a interesting person and played a large behind the scenes role in the Revolution . What happened why did Washington snub him after the War ?
  2. AmandaLynn

    AmandaLynn New Member

    There's a nice write up on him in George Washington's Indispensible Men. Some more material on him may be found on Amazon.

    Joseph was one of Washington's top aides at the start of the war. He fell out of favor with Washington when a correspondence that Joseph had addressed to Charles Lee accidentally fell into Washington's hands. In it, Joseph expressed his frustration with Washington's indecisiveness during one of the New York Battles -- I believe it was Fort Washington. Joseph was mortified when Washington presented him with the letter, stating something to the effect of "I believe this is yours." I forget if the letter Washington accidentally read was Joseph's original letter or Lee's response to it. But regardless, it was most unfortunate for both gentlemen that this came in between them because they had been very close.

    Washington was more taken aback about Joseph never personally confronting him about the issue than he was with the comment itself. The two remained friendly, though they were never close friends again after that.

    The contents of the letter are discussed in Washington's Indispensible Men.  When I read the exceprt, it did not sound like a vicious attack on Washington to me. All Joseph appeared to have been doing was just venting to his friend, Charles Lee, who was second-in-command. It's an unfortunate twist of fate that the letter should have fallen by accident into Washington's hands and that was an embarassment that Joseph found very difficult to live down.

    Nathanael Greene had also expressed some frustration with Washington's indecisiveness during battles. My own gut feeling was that this "indecisiveness" was actually his attempt at figuring out how to preserve manpower because at several points he was down to almost nothing. Greene's correspondences did not accidentally fall into Washington's hands.

  3. tonyt

    tonyt New Member

    Thank You
    Do you think Washington may have been more upset because Joseph Reed wrote to Charles Lee as Lee always appears to being setting a stage to unseat Washington . It is good Nathanial Greene did not fall out of Washington's confidence with all the good he accomplished during the Southern campaign . If I remember the New York campaign and defense was a mostly constant retreat with Washington and his officers attempting to keep order .
  4. AmandaLynn

    AmandaLynn New Member

    Hi Tony,

    That part about Charles Lee also crossed my mind. But when I read about it, it didn't strike me that way. You may want to get that book and get your own take on it. The letter is also discussed in a bio of Charles Lee that I have and I'll have to look it up again from that perspective.

    Lee and Washington started off OK at the beginning of the war but as the war progressed, Lee became bitter about Washington being put in charge of the army rather than him. You can bet that Washington was aware of that and the pot shots that Lee would take at him. But he also knew that when Lee put his mind to it, he was an exceptional commander, more than capable of getting the job done. Plus, the men commanded by Lee adored Lee.

    From what I've read, Washington was a very forgiving soul. He was still able to remain on friendly terms with Joseph Reed after that debacle, and even after the Battle of Monmouth Washington called on Charles Lee to see how he was doing. Except all did not end well there because Lee very rudely snubbed him.

    I think of all the major players in this war Lee was by far the most controversial. And dicey. :D I loved his bio! Sadly, all his character flaws are mentioned in anything and everything you read about him and the positive things are ignored for the most part. But you don't see that with any of the other major players in this war.

  5. tonyt

    tonyt New Member

    Linda ,
    Very interesting observations about Charles Lee and his personality traits . He risked much in joining the Americans in the rebellion and I would suppose he thought he would gain much as well . Agree he may have been the best tactical commander of either Army , Benedict Arnold may have been a close second, and you have to think he thought he was going to be given the Command of all American troops . Politically that most likely would never have occurred . There also is a large difference between strategy and tactics . Washington had a better battlefield presence as well that Lee lacked . That was very important in those times when the common solider could see his commander as well as his enemy .

    Linda what is the name of Charles Lee's biography and who wrote it ? I do need to look up more about him .
  6. AmandaLynn

    AmandaLynn New Member

    The one I have is by John Richard Alden and is called General Charles Lee: Traitor or Patriot. Sadly, it's out of print. I was able to get a copy from about a year or so ago. It's a nice balanced work on Charles Lee. Too much of what you read tends to focus on the traitor part. This bio examines both sides of that argument very well and paints a fine portrait of a fascinating man.

    I found a link that lists the libraries where you can find it:

    This site will let you read it on line for a subscription.  ::) But there's a free trial period:

    And last but not least, here's what Mr. Google has on it:

    Based on Mr. Google's findings I was very lucky to have been able to obtain it from Amazon for the price that I did: $40. :eek:


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